Waco -- Operation Showtime

The Sound-Byte

All indications are that the confrontation between the BATF and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas was a set-up, planned for public relations purposes. The BATF had the news media alerted, the cameras rolling, and a search warrant that was obtained on trumped up charges. They disregarded the invitation of the Branch Davidians to peacefully enter the building and have a look around. They ignored opportunities to arrest David Koresh when he was alone. They recklessly ignored the presence of innocent women and children, and staged a paramilitary-style assault on the community. For what? To make a political statement? Excuse me, but I don't think that is the proper role of law enforcement in a Constitutional Republic.

The Details

The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco (BATF) Special Agents called it "Operation Showtime" when they set up their cameras and summoned the TV crews and newspaper reporters for the arrest of David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidian religious community in Waco, Texas on February 28, 1993. The community consisted of approximately 100 men, women and children, all living in a large wooden structure that they called "Mount Carmel." It was a religious community -- Mount Carmel included a large chapel. The BATF had a more ominous name for the wooden structure: "The Compound."

The BATF had done months of advance work for this operation. They knew that David Koresh could often be found by himself outside Mount Carmel, where he could easily be arrested. They knew of the many women and children living inside Mount Carmel. They had been invited by David Koresh to come in and look around. But they chose instead to arrest Koresh using a technique known in law enforcement circles as a "dynamic entry" -- using some seventy-six heavily armed men and women firing submachine guns, by some accounts including from helicopters and throwing flash-bang grenades.

What happened next is a matter of dispute. The official story is that when the armed BATF agents swarmed towards Mount Caramel on Sunday morning, they were greeted by gunfire from the occupants of Mount Carmel. Four government agents were killed. The surviving Davidians tell a different story -- that the government agents fired first without identifying themselves as law enforcement officers serving an arrest warrant. [Note that there is case law which supports the right of private citizens to defend themselves against attack by unidentified law enforcement officers, and the surviving Branch Davidians were acquitted of murder charges in the deaths of the Federal agents killed during that assault.]

What followed was a protracted siege, in which government agents and Branch Davidians each accused the other of acting in bad faith. The lack of trust was exacerbated by the Fundamentalist religious beliefs of the Branch Davidians (an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist tradition). The Branch Davidians viewed the situation as a possible prelude to Armageddon. The government forces viewed the Branch Davidians as a dangerous right-wing religious cult. The Branch Davidians accused the government of firing the first shots, and of firing at them from helicopters. The Branch Davidians repeatedly expressed their concern that the siege must be ended in a way that would preserve the physical evidence of government misconduct embedded in the doors, walls, and roof of their home.

The siege ended on April 19, 1993 when government tanks began ramming the walls of Mount Carmel and firing tear-gas into the building. Fire broke out and the entire structure was rapidly enveloped in flames. Most of the Branch Davidians, men, women, and children perished in the fire. The few surviving Branch Davidians claim that the fire was started by the tanks; the government forces claim that the Branch Davidians committed suicide by starting the blaze themselves. The remains of Mount Carmel were bulldozed away a couple months after the fire, leading some observers sympathetic to the Branch Davidians to suggest that the government wanted to destroy any evidence of wrong-doing by the government agents before or during the siege.

Congress held hearings on the matter in 1993 and 1995, which ended basically upholding the point of view of the BATF and FBI.

Government sources have recently (June to August 1999) admitted that military-style tear gas grenades that contain a pyrotechnic charge capable of starting fires were fired at the Branch Davidian complex, but now maintain that the incendiary devices were not fired in the direction of where flames broke out in the Branch Davidian complex, and were fired hours before the flames broke out.

The Austin American Statesman  reported September 11, 1999 that the Texas Rangers Report on the Waco Branch Davidian disaster included classified military secrets, thus raising further questions regarding the military's role in the government operation. Normally, the military is prohibited by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act from engaging in domestic law enforcement activities. However, the Commander in Chief has authority to override the Posse Comitatus  restrictions by Executive Order. Investigators sympathetic to the Branch Davidians have long claimed that the U.S. Army Delta Force played an active operational role, which the government has long denied.

Attorney General Janet Reno deflected criticism away from the President in 1993 by taking responsibility herself for the Waco tragedy. However, if military units did indeed have an operational role at Waco, then direct involvement by the President is implied [or else insubordination violating Posse Comitatus ]. This of course raises the question of "What did the President know, and when did he know it?"

The Washington Times  reported September 14, 1999 that the same FBI sharpshooter, Lon Horiuchi, who killed Vicki Weaver [as she held an infant in her arms] during the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992 was also present at the Waco Branch Davidian siege. Although the government settled a wrongful death suit with her husband Randy Weaver in that case, Lon Horiuchi escaped prosecution on involuntary manslaughter charges when a Federal judge ruled that the Federal agent could not be tried under Idaho state law. The Washington Times further reported that three dozen spent sniper rounds were found by the Texas Rangers at sniper sites occupied by the FBI during the Waco Branch Davidian siege, and at least one witness has reported hearing gunfire originating from the FBI positions. The FBI denied firing any such rounds, but pointed out that the same sniper positions had been previously occupied by the BATF. There are also reports that thermal imaging [infrared] videos exist showing gunfire directed into the Branch Davidian community complex.

These recent revelations have cast sufficient doubt on the completeness and veracity of the information provided to Congress by the BATF and FBI in 1993 and 1995 that Attorney General Janet Reno has launched a new investigation, headed by former Senator John Danforth (R-MO). Senator John Danforth has in turn enlisted the assistance of the Postal Inspection Service in conducting the investigation. CNN reports (September 14, 1999) that the Postal Inspection Service is independent of the Justice Department (which houses the FBI and DEA) and the Treasury Department (which houses the BATF, Secret Services, Custom Service, and IRS). To its credit, the Postal Inspection Service was included in the investigation of the FBI actions at Ruby Ridge in 1992, which concluded that the FBI engaged in a coverup of activities which lead to the wrongful death of Randy Weaver's wife and son.

Among the issues which need to be explored by Senator Danforth's commission include the following:

Only time will tell whether Senator Danforth will aggressively seek answers to these and other questions. On the one hand, if he finds substantial evidence of wrongdoing, then the so-called "right-wing conspiracy theorists" will be vindicated on the matter of Waco, thereby accruing greater credibility on other matters where the Clinton Administration has thus far gotten by with a shibboleth jig, a wink, and a nod. On the other hand, if he is seen as conducting a cursory investigation aimed at "restoring faith in government agencies" then he runs the risk of engendering even greater mistrust.

The best outcome would be a full, thorough, and open investigation that convinces even the most dedicated skeptics that everything is kosher. But I am not holding my breath.

For Further Information Check Out These Books

Below we list a number of books that relate to the Waco Branch Davidian Massacre. We have included all books we are aware of, from all points of view. If you know of any other books in print, please let us know.

Book Cover The Davidian Massacre: Disturbing Questions about Waco Which Must Be Answered
Carol Moore
Includes information from recent Congressional Hearings; documents government mis-handling of the situation and suggests that the government conspired to cover-up their shortcomings.

Book Cover A Place Called Waco; A Survivor's Story
David Thibodeau, Leon Whiteson
A survivor of the Waco massacre tells the inside story of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, and what really happened at Mount Carmel. David Thibodeau reveals the unconventional life and beliefs of the Branch Davidian community, and also presents evidence that calls into question the actions of the Federal government.

Book Cover The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation
Dick J. Reavis
Drawing on interviews with survivors of Koresh's movement (which dates back to 1935, long before Koresh was born), on published accounts, on trial transcripts, on esoteric religious tracts and audiotapes that tell us who Koresh was and why people followed him, and most of all on secret documents that the government has not released to the public yet, Reavis has uncovered the real story from beginning to end, including the trial that followed. He concludes that the government had little reason to investigate Koresh and even less to raid the compound at Mount Carmel. The government lied to the public about most of what happened - about who fired the first shots, about drug allegations, about child abuse. The FBI was duplicitous and negligent in gassing Mount Carmel - and that alone could have started the fire that killed seventy-six people.

Book Cover Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America
James D. Tabor, Eugene V. Gallagher
Intolerance of unconventional religions and a failure to communicate lead to the Waco disaster. Includes David Koresh's previously unpublished manuscript on the Book of Revelation.

Book Cover No More Wacos: What's Wrong with Federal Law Enforcement and how to Fix It
David B. Kopel, Paul H. Blackman
BATF and FBI abuse of power threatens individual rights, the rule of law, and due process. Extensive documentation.

Book Cover Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict
Stuart A. Wright
Essays from various points of view explore the history of the Branch Davidians and David Koresh, why the group was labeled a 'cult,' how authorities used unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse to strengthen their case against the sect, the media's role, the orchestration of public relations by government officials, the ideologies of the journalists themselves, and the role played by 'experts' and 'consultants' in defining such conflicts.

Book Cover Massacre at Waco: The Shocking True Story of Cult Leader David Koresh and the Branch Davidians
Clifford L. Linedecker
A military, police and government reporter with a taste for the occult casts a jaundiced eye on David Koresh and the Branch Davidians: [Koresh] loved God. He loved guns. He was the Evil Messiah. 'I am Christ.' -- self-proclaimed Messiah David Koresh, to his followers. He promised them Heaven ... instead, he took them to Hell ....

Book Cover Tainting Evidence
John F. Kelly, Phillip Wearne
FBI crime labs are not trustworthy.

Book Cover The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Washington bureau chief of The Sunday Telegraph (London) documents a pattern of intimidation, harassment, and even strange deaths that seem to be standard operating procedure in the Clinton administrations in both Arkansas and Washington. Also raises questions about Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, and possible obstruction of justice.

Book Cover Apocalypse in Oklahoma: Waco and Ruby Ridge Revenged
Mark S. Hamm
The author argues that the force used by the FBI during the sieges at the Branch Davidian community in Waco, Texas, and at Randy Weaver's cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, followed by an unwillingness to admit to errors in judgment, fueled the radical right's suspicion and hatred of the federal government and provided the motive for the explosion in Oklahoma City.

Book Cover The Militia Movement in America: Before and After Oklahoma City
Tricia Andryszewski
Juvenile literature. Explores the roots of the militia movement's growth in the United States, its connection with mainstream society, the ideologies of anti-government groups, and the tragedies at Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Oklahoma City.

  From the Ashes: Making Sense of Waco
James R. Lewis
Commentary and analysis of the Waco Incident from many points of view, ranging from The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs to Eldridge Cleaver.

Book Cover Before the Flames: David Koresh and the Branch Davidians
A. Anthony Hibbert
The roots of the Branch Davidians in the Seventh Day Adventists and how we can prevent future tragedies like the torching near Waco.

Book Cover Standoff in Texas
Mike Cox
The Waco Branch Davidian disaster as seen through the eyes of the chief of media relations for the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas Rangers.

Book Cover Religious Cults in America
Robert Emmet Long
An insurance investigator and literary critic ventures into non-fiction, examining religious cults, the Branch Davidians and the Waco disaster.

Book Cover Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco
Peter Schafer, Mark R. Cohen
A collection of sixteen articles delivered at Princeton University. The volume covers messianic expectations from biblical time up to modern and contemporaneous adaptations, whereby the focus lies on the messianic concept within Judaism: diversity and variety of messianic expectations in antiquity; messianic movements at the time of the Crusades and around the fifth millennium (1240); the 'Pseudo'-Messiah Sabbatai Zvi in the early modern period; the philosophers Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig and Walter Benjamin with respect to their thinking about messianism as well as the Lubavitch movement.

Book Cover Wait-out in Waco
Sue L. Hamilton, Richard Smith, John C. Hamilton
Juvenile literature: 4-8 grade. A fictional dramatization of the Waco Branch Davidian disaster.

Book Cover The Waco Whitewash
Jack DeVault

  The Siege at Waco: Deadly Inferno
Michael D. Cole
Juvenile literature for young adults, details David Koresh's rise to head of the Branch Davidians, his buildup of firearms and followers, and his eventual deadly defiance of the United States government at Waco, Texas.

  Davidian Testimony
David Adair

  Boilerplate: Koreshians, Potential Rioters, and Bureaucratic Complicity in American Self-Destruction: Being a List of Eight Ways in Which the Dead at Waco Were a Lot like the Rest of Us
Daniel X. O'Neil

  Cult - Anti-Cult: How a National Mindset and Government Incompetence Aided and Abetted the Waco Disaster
James R. Lewis

  Waco Report of the U. S. Treasury Department
Rector Press
The BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco) version of what happened to the Branch Davidian community at Waco Texas.

  Bushwhacked by Bushmasters: Waco, the Raw Truth
Ronald R. Davidson

  Waco Massacre
Mike Tecton

  Anti-Militia: On the Link between the Massacres at Waco and Oklahoma City and the Yugoslav Civil War
Thomas J. Kuna-Jacob

  Evaluation of the Handling of the Branch Davidian Stand off in Waco
Edward Dennis

Book Cover A Culture of Secrecy: The Government Versus the People's Right to Know
Athan G. Theoharis

Copyright © 1999 Daniel Weyrich.

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Last updated: September 22, 1999; Version: 1.1